CS:GO | 9 months

25 Pro CS:GO Players Revolt Against Exclusivity Agreements

There could be trouble in paradise for the North American CS:GO scene, with players revolting against their owners.

The formation of the Professional Esports Association (PEA) was announced in September 2016, involving 7 North American teams with compLexity, Immortals, CLG, Cloud9, NRG, TSM and Team Liquid all signing up.

The promise of the PEA included a $1 million Pro League for the region, featuring revenue sharing amongst other benefits for the organisations. On top of that, it was promised that players would have full involvement with decisions made with the league.

It looks as though the situation has gone sour however, with the PEA advising that teams involved with their league will be stopped from competing in the ESL Pro League.

An open letter protesting has been released by 25 of the players via community figure head, Scott “SirScoots” Smith. The letter signed by all of the players Cloud9, Immortals, CLG, Team Liquid and TSM talks of their lack of involvement in the decision making and threats against their current contracts.


You can read the full statement on the Medium.com website, or view a preview below.

When the PEA was announced, our owners and Jason Katz, the PEA’s Commissioner, made it clear to the esports world that it was their goal to empower the players and collaborate with transparency. Andy from TSM said that the PEA had no intention to be exclusive and that it would share strategic decisions with the players.

Steve from Liquid said that he wanted to see esports get to a place where the players and teams were aligned. Jack from C9 called us partners. Jason Katz himself said that the players would have a strong voice in every major league decision and that the PEA would make sure it reached agreements with us regarding our overall commitmentto the league. He also said that the PEA would have the highest level of transparency in the industry. The PEA’s own press release promised that its management structure would ensure that the players had an authoritative voice in league operations.

Behind the scenes, the promises from the PEA were similar, but the mood among the players was more of openness and healthy skepticism than enthusiasm. This is because, as much as the PEA made it seem like the project was a collaboration, we actually weren’t really involved in its planning at all. Most of the players weren’t even informed of the PEA’s existence by their owners until the night before it was announced.

Jason Lake’s celebratory Tweet of a group picture seemed like it was implying that the players and team owners were completely on the same page, but Pimp and hazed, for example, didn’t even know what the PEA was until the night before that photo was taken. Looking back on it, they kind of feel like they were just carted in for a photo op to make the league look good.

In the weeks following the launch, the players’ understanding was that the PEA was something we wouldn’t have to participate in if we didn’t want to. This wasn’t speculation — it was what the PEA was saying publicly and privately. Some of us were directly told that if we weren’t fully comfortable with the PEA, there was no pressure on us to participate and that it would be entirely our decision to make.

A few weeks later, we elected the three players who would represent us in the PEA rules committee (n0thing, Hiko, and Pimp), and for most of October and November, we didn’t have much interaction with the PEA. We just focused on competing in our usual run of tournaments. Our understanding of what would be happening over these months was that the PEA and our owners would be working with other tournaments to make sure that their schedules would not be disrupted by the addition of the PEA league. Again, this wasn’t speculation — it was what the PEA said publicly and privately, and what some of us were directly told.


The PEA started hosting rules committee meetings in early November, and our player representatives started developing concerns about its voting structure right from the start. We were told that committee decisions would be decided by a simple majority of seven votes: three belonging to our player reps, two belonging to reps selected by the team owners, and the final two belonging to the PEA itself.

The league Commissioner, Jason Katz, would have one of these two PEA votes. When our player reps pointed out that this meant we could always be out-voted by the league and the owners, Jason said that it was designed this way intentionally — to help avoid stalemates. He said that the PEA votes should be considered unbiased and that even as Commissioner he would be a trustworthy, unbiased voter.

So there we were: the minority vote on the committee that was supposed to give us an “authoritative voice,” reliant on two PEA officials (including the Commissioner himself) to be unbiased in a league that was owned and operated by the team owners. Our player reps, to say the least, were skeptical — but we had no choice but to go with the flow for the time being.

The same week as IEM Oakland, we started seeing more serious reasons for concern about what the PEA was doing. We started hearing rumors that some of us were about to be told we would have to withdraw from the next season of ESL Pro League. We also heard rumors that the PEA and EPL actually had no active or ongoing discussions to ensure that they wouldn’t conflict with each other. This was contrary to what we had been told back in September and October, and it was at this point that we realized we needed help.”

The players all spoke out on Twitter to back the letter, using the hashtag, #PlayersRights.

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